Friday, April 13, 2007

Deportation drama: Malta journalists offer help

Friday April 13 2007
By Roy Greenslade

11.40am: The Armenian journalist, Gina Khachatryan, is on the Air Malta plane bound for Valletta at the beginning of her unwanted journey back to Armenia. (See Protests over Armenian journalist's deportation) The home office rejected pleas from friends, supporters, lawyers, individual journalists and the National Union of Journalists in order to carry out her controversial deportation.

But Maltese journalists, led by David Vella of the Malta Star, have rallied to Gina's cause. Herman Grech of The Times of Malta is also on the case.

They contacted the United Nations human rights commission in the hope that one of its representatives would be allowed to speak to Gina when she arrives at the airport in Malta in order to assist her to make a formal request to the Maltese government for political asylum. But the UNHCR have pointed out that such a request would be extremely unlikely to succeed. The only hope now is a legal decision by the European court.

If that move fails, then the family will be flown on to Moscow. Gina will hope that the Russian authorities might be prepared to accept her (although she does not have Russian citizenship she was born in the country). She believes that anything is better than returning to the country where she anticipates bitter hostility from officials after fleeing in 2003.

Some people have asked me why a journalist should be afraid of operating in Armenia, which was named as the 101st worst country (out of 168) for press freedom restrictions in the Reporters without Borders 2006 rankings. And it may well slip further down that list because Edik Baghdasaryan, head of the association of investigative journalists of Armenia, has reported a recent wave of violent attacks against journalists in the country.

If officials - or large-scale businessmen - do not like what is written, reporters are threatened and, in some cases, beaten up. One reporter was forced to leave his flat last summer.

More on this continuing drama later.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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